Sunday, 5 July 2009

"Coiney" concept of "Comedy"

The no-questions-asked acquirers and handlers of heaps of decontextualised ancient coins on transatlantic table tops clearly have a distorted sense of humour. Yesterday Heritage Action discussed the story of the quarrel between two UK metal detector using finders about how the reward for the Dallinghoo Hoard should be split. It raised some perfectly valid questions, how it was "ludicrous it is to be paying metal detectorists millions of pounds in rewards for doing what they all swear blind they would do without any reward anyway" (see what "metal detectorist" Darke is quoted as saying). Heritage Action further raises the question of why on earth in the grip of a recession, the British are spending further millions of money from the public budget "encouraging and supporting them in a hobby that other countries deem illegal and would simply send them to prison for" (if carried out in the manner of this find). Heritage Action adds:

If you pay tax or care about the archaeological record, or think the first should go towards protecting the second not in facilitating its erosion away into the hands of a few thousand nameless and entirely unregulated private individuals (most of whom tell no-one what they have found or where) it’s definitely worth a look.
It is interesting to see what reaction this met in the transatlantic collecting community (who claim to care about the preservation of the archaeological record). Apparently all they could muster to contribute to any discussion of the issues was: "Some things are just too funny to parody". Really? Personally, I do not get the "joke". Saying something is laughable and not explaining why is a pretty transparent tactic.

The monetan poster goes on to say "(although we might try to do something with gambling money being called tax!)". By "gambling money" one can only infer that the author believes that in England and Wales, Treasure rewards are paid from Heritage Lottery Fund money, which is by no means the case, the HLF are no longer even the principal source of PAS funding as it was in the late 1990s. Perhaps "monetans" interested in the workings of the British Treasure Act need to keep up with the news of how it actually does work.

[*What is odd though is that the ACCG Museums Fund (aiming to help British museums acquire numismatic treasure finds) does not mention the HLF in the information about why the collectors think the fund is necessary, though it mentions the Headly Trust for entirely transparent reasons. What is significant is that the author of the Monetan post is closely involved in the ACCG fund's operation.]


Anonymous said...

Thank you for originally highlighting this story. We thought some of Mr Darke’s remarks were significant, hence we made them our Quote of the Week.

The point that struck us was that he seems to be a perfectly affable fellow but one that is blissfully unaware of two things:

1.) The serious and damaging effect which his activities, multiplied ten thousand times, has on the history which he says is his interest.

2.) The extreme anxiety of some of his more worldly-wise colleagues and their official or professional supporters to say that money isn’t an issue for detectorists and yet, mind-bendingly, that piling public money into both encouraging them and rewardingly them for finds is the right thing to do.

Mr Darke’s innocent and unguarded remark “if somebody is going to stand up and throw money at me I am not going to not take it” is no doubt true of every detectorist but is definitely not couched in the manner they and their apologists would wish. Completely off-message and unhelpful.

It would be nice to think that his words were noted in Whitehall. They say more than a forest-worth of Treasure Reports, press releases and glossy brochures.

Paul Barford said...

I think we should differentiate between two types of case. 1) an accidental finder coming acoss something and reporting it as a good citizen should, 2) people going out and deliberately seeking treasure with treasure-seeking devices, indeed (as in this case) at places known ("known" in this case in local folklore) to contain buried treasure.

In this case the Treasure was "two feet down" below plough level, it was declarable when the fnder had the nitial eight coin finds. It certainly need not have been hoiked out in a weekend or two before the "archies" get there. What were the finders thinking of?

I note on the Detectorist.UK forum that at least some of the "only itrested in the istry M8" guys still do not know what the Treasure Act says about who gets the reward for coins they leave in the ground to be excavated properly under archaelogical supervision. Eleven years of PAS and BM Treasure Department outreach - they must be slow learners, I guess. Anyhow it seems the message is not getting through.

Paul Barford said...

Of course if any transatlantic decontextualised ancient coin hoarder is reading this, instead of laughing at what Heritage Actio said, or "parodying" (sic) the concerns of this conservation group, let's hear your view. How would you justify encouraging unregulated wild treasure hunting of objects taken from the undisturbed archaeological record at public expense in the UK?

Anonymous said...

"I think we should differentiate between two types of case. 1) an accidental finder coming acoss something and reporting it as a good citizen should, 2) people going out and deliberately seeking treasure with treasure-seeking devices"

Indeed! Although a couple of things are worthy of reflection:

First, random "accidental finders", as a breed, may well be prepared to hand objects over to museums in exchange for a small reward or none - as has often been proved. This rather suggests that a random person stopped in the street has a greater inbuilt understanding that history belongs to the community than the average member of a hobby that presents itself as "saving history".

Second, random "accidental finders", as a breed, are rather less likely to flog finds on Ebay if. This probably holds true for Treasure items as well as non-treasure items, something which the drafters of the Treasure Act are likely to have understood. This may well explain why the rewards were set at "market value" rather than less. Reward/award is perhaps a misnomer. Ransom payment is patently what was in their minds and they weren't thinking of ordinary members of the public, surely?

Third, archaeologists are precluded from receiving rewards for Treasure items and from selling any found items at all. Why should those who wish to be seen as their partners be happy to be treated differently? Beats me. (That's sarcasm by the way).

Paul Barford said...

John Hooker is reduced to explaining to „Monetans” his attempt at poking fun at Heritage Action.

Call me a grumpy old archie, but I still do not see the “joke”.

Hooker seems to think that HA was talking only about hoards… obviously not true if anyone has been following their discussions with any attention, but I guess that is something that “coineys”, by definition, do not do.

Hooker totally misrepresents the HA argument. All he does is trot out the traditional paper tigers painted with the same stereotypical collecting mantras as though they in some way relate to what Heritage Action said. They do not.

Hooker pretends: I did mention the Heritage Lottery Fund as a source of funding to many metal detecting finds I did not see the qualifier ”many” in the original post.

Just because some hoard purchases have been supported by HLF grants covering part of the cost, it does not mean that all are. Indeed, to take one of the examples quoted by Hookerian Googling, the Chelmsford purchase was also most certainly financed at the cost of Chelmsford taxpayers. As are many others, including by public appeals. It is Hooker who is making “a poor attempt to bamboozle the readers” by glibly stating that the Treasure process is financed by "gambling" and that this is in some way "funny".

Paul Barford now wants everyone to believe that this funding is inconsequential, presumably to back up his pal's tax-money goof. Mr Hooker can check in the Annual Reports just how much PAS and Treasure Scheme funding comes from which bodies, it certainly does not back up his theory that Treasure is financed by “gambling”. It is certainly no “goof” to say that the public foots the bill, one way or another, for a large part of the expenditure of supporting the artefact hunting in a “partnership” which strips the assets of the nation’s archaeological heritage to sell off.

Hooker concludes with a veiled threat: Finally, perhaps we really should be supporting HA and Paul Barford's plans. After all, if metal detecting was not rewarded in the U.K. many more coins would go straight to collectors and never enter the museums I suggest he reads the final chapter of the book I have written with HA chairman Nigel Swift before he dismisses our “plans” so roundly. He obviously has not understood them from what he has read so far, so really the joke is on him.

Marcus Preen said...

"if metal detecting was not rewarded in the U.K. many more coins would go straight to collectors"...

Eh? How? It would involve metal detectorists breaking the law aided and abetted by dealers.

He might well be right, but it's the opposite of what metal detectorists and dealers say. One lot say they wouldn't break the law and the other lot say they wouldn't buy illicit goods.

Mr Hooker seems to have inadvertently let slip his true opinions of the two groups. I don't think either will be very happy with his contribution! Can we expect a bit of hasty back peddling lest Heritage Action pick it up as their next quote of the week?

Paul Barford said...

Mr Hooker is Canadian Marcus, I wonder if he'd care to repeat the same statement on a UK "metal detecting" forum, and see what reaction he would get from the people he so easily assumes would break the law. Or do we think his assessment of attitudes to law-breaking and law-breakers within the UK detecting community is as informed as his knowledge of where UK Treasure payments come from ?

Marcus Preen said...

Well he is obviously blissfully unaware of almost everything that goes on in Britain including the fact that metal detectorists are terribly anxious to be seen as NOT potential criminals.

But it's less understandable why he should commit the second horrible faux pas - saying that his US colleagues would happily buy undeclared illicit British treasure items.

Dirty Dave the digger from Dundee probably won't hear about what he said but his US dealer friends obviously will and will so may well have a quiet and possibly acrimonious word in his shell-like.

Hence a bit of "clarification" is imminent I reckon. It'll be tough though. Only verbal gymnastics of Olympic standard will be sufficient. Lucky for him he's such a proven expert!

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